Large windows allow sufficient glare-free lighting of
interior. Small air inlets below the window, and, larger outlets into central
corridors aid natural ventilation.
The Old Architects’ Office was one of the earliest buildings constructed in Chandigarh, along with the Old Engineers’ office and staff residences in Sector 19. It continued to be put to its original use till 1965, when the Department of Urban Planning shifted to its present location within the U.T. Secretariat in Sector 9. Being the workplace of Le Corbusier and his team, as also the spot from where the entire city was designed, the building is of immense historic value to Chandigarh. The structure is also a significant resource for understanding the technological, formal, and aesthetic spirit of Modern architecture, as also its peculiar manifestation in the context of Chandigarh.
The Old Architects’ Office also demonstrates the world-wide issues of conserving Modern Heritage. Some of these are the changing dynamics of “use”, fragility of modern materials, inherent problems of temporary and experimental constructions, non-availability of original materials, introduction of contemporary services, etc.
Besides contributing to the ongoing international deliberations about the policies and methodologies for conserving Modern Heritage, this project would indeed be a landmark as the first ever project of conservation and adaptive re-use undertaken by the Chandigarh Administration. It would help in building awareness of the city’s unique value among its residents and simultaneously establish the positive role of heritage conservation as an enabling tool for development. It is, thus, important that the building itself be treated as an authentic resource for disseminating information about the distinctive interpretation of Modern architecture in the context of Chandigarh as also for recreating the original ambience in which the city was created.
Le Corbusier & Pierre Jeanneret in the Committee Room. Note also the
chair on which Le Corbusier is seated.
P L Varma, Le Corbusier & Pierre Jeanneret in a discussion. Note
the original drafting table then in use.
Physical Appraisal :
The original building was designed with particular attention to Chandigarh’s mandate of cost-effective and climate responsive design. The spirit of experimentation of Nehru’s new city ‘free from encumbrances of the past’ was also obvious in the choice of its general form as well as construction.
The thin RCC shell of the entrance porch of the Old Architects’ Office
is also an early demonstration of the plastic and structural potential of
this Modern material.
The building, thus, was made with experimental and cost-effective materials and methods, such as the exposed reinforced concrete shell of the porch, precast beams of the sloping roofs, bricktile for floors, and, jute-lac panels for doors and cupboard shutters. Also were incorporated several design elements to obstruct harsh sun, to create ample glarefree natural light, and, to induce natural ventilation – in general, to create a comfortable work environment without recourse to costly mechanical devices. The modest structure of our Old Architects’ Office may well be considered as a seminal attempt at introducing concepts of ‘sustainability’ and ‘green architecture’ in the architectural annals of Modern India.
For nearly 40 years after the Department of Urban Planning had shifted to its new location, the building was relegated to the position of a non-viable temporary structure that had become functionally and structurally redundant. The consequent lack of regular maintenance accelerated normal process of decay, including total loss of certain building elements. Unmindful of the building’s architectural or cultural value, the new users— especially of the block which is still occupied — made several incompatible changes and adaptations, compromising the correct appreciation of the original design.